Colts Hire Son of Former NFL Coach, Continue to Fill Coaching Staff

Indianapolis Colts

Getty The Colts offensive line struggled in 2022 but are hoping to have a better 2023 season.

The Indianapolis Colts filled another hole in its coaching staff on February 27 by signing Tony Sparano Jr. as the team’s new offensive line coach, per Record SportsArt Stapleton

Sparano Jr. is the son of Tony Sparano, who coached nine different NFL teams over 19 years. Sparano’s most notable position was as Miami Dolphins head coach from 2008-2011; during that span, he finished with a 29-32 record.

Sparano also held other high-level roles, serving as the New York Jets offensive coordinator in 2012 and Oakland Raiders interim head coach in 2014. The longtime NFL coach passed away in 2018 at the age of 56 due to natural causes associated with arteriosclerotic heart disease. 

A three-year letterman at the University of Albany, Sparano Jr. did not play professionally, but he earned his first NFL coaching job in 2011, when he became a Dolphins offensive quality control coach under his father’s leadership. Since then, he has coached 12 straight years and will soon enter his first as a full-time offensive line coach.

In 2021 and 2022, Sparano Jr. was an assistant OL coach for the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants, respectively.

The Indianapolis Star’s Nate Atkins tweeted on February 16 that OL coach “might be the most important” Colts coaching vacancy this offseason. He also said Philadelphia Eagles assistant Roy Istvant was a top candidate for the OL coaching job, but that ultimately never came to be.

The Colts are instead hiring Sparano Jr. to replace 2022 OL coach Chris Strausser, who signed with the Houston Texans as OL coach on February 21.

Sparano Jr.’s New Situation

Within the Colts’ offensive line is the team’s lone 2022 Pro Bowl player: Quenton Nelson. Despite his Pro Bowl berth, he wasn’t pleased with his season. Nelson gave up career-worst marks in allowing five sacks, six QB hits and pressures (31).

It wasn’t just Nelson who struggled, however — it was the entire offensive line. The team gave up 60 sacks featuring three different starting quarterbacks.

But despite the Colts’ underwhelming scoring totals in part of a 4-12-1 record, the offensive line got better as the season went on. According to writer J.J. Stankevitz, “from Weeks 9-18, the Colts earned a 70.4 Pro Football Focus pass block grade, 16th in the NFL and a significant improvement from Weeks 1-8 (55.3, 5th-lowest).”

That grade improved with a consistent starting five from Weeks 9-18: left tackle Bernhard Raimann, Nelson, center Ryan Kelly, right guard Will Fries and right tackle Braden Smith.

Overall, the unit’s production became more consistent, especially from its two young players (Raimann and Fries).

But what the Colts have to look forward to is continuing to build an offensive line to protect a the potential franchise rookie quarterback, as team owner Jim Irsay has expressed. Indianapolis, who currently holds the No. 4 pick in the upcoming draft., is in a position to stand pat or trade up.

Current Coaching Staff

With the Colts hiring Sparano Jr. and reportedly retaining defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, spots among the coaching staff are suddenly beginning to fill.

New Indianapolis head coach Shane Steichen recently named Jim Bob Cooter his offensive coordinator. Steichen, who served two years (2021-2022) as Eagles OC, announced he would call the plays for the Colts during his introductory press conference.

Bradley’s return marked the second of the cycle for the Colts along with wide receivers coach Reggie Wayne.

Others joining the Colts coaching staff this offseason: running backs coach DeAndre Smith and tight ends coach Tom Manning.

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